Rachel

The last of the matriarchs was Jacob's true love.

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Laban discovered that Jacob was gone. He and his men set out in pursuit and caught up with Jacob and his family seven days later, near the hills of Gilead. Laban reproached Jacob for taking away his daughters in secret, without letting him say good-bye or kiss his grandchildren.

"You had to leave because you were longing for your father's house; but why did you steal my gods?" asked Laban. "I was afraid because I thought you would take your daughters from me by force. But anyone with whom you find your gods shall not remain alive! In the presence of our kinsmen, point out what I have of yours and take it," answered Jacob, not knowing that Rachel had stolen the idols (Genesis 31:30–32).

Laban searched the tents, including Rachel's tent, but did not find the idols, because Rachel was sitting on them. "Let not my lord take amiss that I cannot rise before you, for the period of women is upon me (Genesis 31:35)," apologized Rachel for not getting up in the presence of his father.

Jacob and Laban made a covenant between them, which they celebrated by gathering stones into a heap, making a sacrifice, and eating. Then they parted in peace: Laban returned home, and Jacob continued his voyage to Canaan.

Jacob and his family settled near Shechem. After his sons Simeon and Levi killed all the males in Shechem to avenge their sister Dinah's lost honor, Jacob decided to move the family to Beth-el. From there they went to Ephrath.

On the way to Ephrath, Rachel, who was again pregnant, gave birth to a boy, whom she called Ben-oni, "son of my suffering," but Jacob called him Benjamin, "son of the south," because he was the only one of his children who was born in the south (that is, in Canaan). All the others, including Joseph, Benjamin's full brother, were born in Aram-naharaim.

Rachel died, after giving birth to Benjamin, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath. Jacob set a pillar on her grave.

Ironically, it was Leah, the unloved wife, who rested in the same grave as Jacob, not Rachel, the love of his life. Over 1,000 years later. the prophet Jeremiah wrote that the voice of Rachel was heard in Ramah bitterly weeping and lamenting the exile of her children.

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David Mandel studied at the University of Pennsylvania under Bible scholar Moshe Greenberg, and moved to Israel in 1970, where he founded Computronic Corporation, an Israeli software development company that specializes in biblical software.